Back when I decided I wanted to become a writer, I added a “someday” to the end. As in, “I’m going to be a writer someday.” That was what I believed I was supposed to do, what was expected of me. Because no one first starting out writing was a writer. You had to do things first.
You had to have a manuscript, for instance. Or at least be working on one. And you had to have a blog and a “social networking presence”. You had to have followers and friends and readers. An agent. And, of course, a publishing contract.
To me, procuring that last one would be my golden ticket into the chocolate factory. To have a book out, to be published, would eliminate the need for that “someday” I kept adding. I wouldn’t need it anymore. I would be a writer. A real one.
Until that time (and if that time ever came, because I understood the odds), I considered myself merely a wannabe. And those thoughts didn’t change after I had a manuscript and a blog and a “social networking presence” because I saw the writing world as a segregated one. The ones who had books on Amazon and did interviews occupied the castles, and the rest of us were left to beg at the gate for any morsel of acceptance tossed our way. I would pass notes through that gate in the form of queries and proposals to any who ventured close enough, hoping against hope that one of them would pity me and bid me to pass. Theirs was the life I wanted, not my own.
It was tough looking through that gate and watching those published writers gorge on their dreams while I starved on my own.
Every so often someone on my side would be granted entrance. Those were always good times, hopeful times, because everyone left would believe their turn may be next. I would watch as those people crossed over and imagine they were me. Often they would each come close to the gate and talk to the rest of us on the other side. We’d hear amazing stories that would both fill us and leave us hungrier.
I had hope that if I hung around long enough—if I kept knocking—my turn would come. I was right about that. Talent can only get you so far in the publishing business. You have to persist. You have to always try once more.
For proof of that, the gate did open. I found on the other side an agent. And she helped me find a publisher. Amazon and interviews have followed. I thought I would be loosed then. Set free. I suppose in my mind I’d always considered being published akin to shedding my mortal coil in favor of a heavenly body.
That wasn’t true.
There are a lot of writers who change when they go from the land of wanting to be published to the land of author. They think they’ve become someone they’re not because they’re in a place few have been blessed to venture.
I’ve always promised myself that if I were fortunate enough to cross over, I’d stay close to the gate just to see you. Just so you would come close and I could talk to you and say this:
Writing is the most democratic form of expression I know. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you stand in this life, you have a story to tell. One that is just as important, just as needed, as anyone else’s. Being a real writer isn’t a matter of being published, it’s a matter of how you see yourself. It’s a matter of study and work and determination, not a contract.
I found that out.
There is no “someday”. You are a real writer the moment you put pen to page and soak it with your tears and sweat and dare to share yourself with the world. It is that supreme act of courage that gives your life meaning, not a piece of paper to sign and initial at the bottom.
That’s what I will tell you.
And I will tell you this as well—the world on this side of the gate isn’t that different from the world on the other. We strive in each to inspire and transport our reader.
That is our hope and our call.
The other day my wife found a notebook tucked beneath a pile of kindergarten papers and rainy day projects. It was my daughter’s. Her first notebook, as a matter of fact. With chewed corners and squiggly lines instead of sentences.
She’s a chip off the old block, my little girl—equal parts bookworm, nerd, dreamer, and writer. That last bit has taken hold over the last few years. She wants to be a writer, just like her daddy. I’m good with this.
This past week, she had the honor of attending a gathering of county elementary school students known as Young Authors, which included a genuine flesh-and-blood children’s writer. Maybe even cooler than that, each student had to write his or her own story that would be read during the event.
This was big stuff. Important stuff.
My daughter worked for three weeks on her story. She wrote and rewrote, edited and cut, pasted and revised. And fretted. There was a lot of fretting. That’s when I figured she was closer to becoming a real writer than I’d thought. The result was nearly seven hundred words concerning a Middle Ages princess who found herself in very deep trouble.
I wasn’t there when she read it, but I received the blow-by-blow later that evening between sniffles and those wet, whispery hiccups young girls tend to develop in the midst of an emotional breakdown.
It wasn’t because she faltered while reciting her story, nor was the story itself horrible (on the contrary, I was quite smitten with it). No, it was something else. Something much, much worse.
No one applauded at the end.
That no one applauded for any of the other stories offered seemed to me an extremely relevant fact. Not so to her. To her, it didn’t matter at all that none of the other children’s stories was met with adulation. All that mattered was that HERS didn’t.
She was crushed, wholly and completely. Ruined to the point where she vowed to never write a single word again. The simple act of writing hurt itself, she said. But writing without applause at the end? That was a pain beyond description, one that could only be expressed by sniffles and wet, whispery hiccups.
That’s when I knew my daughter wasn’t just close to becoming a writer, she was actually on the precipice. She was there, mere steps away.
There are things writers are supposed to say when asked why they do what they do. They say it’s because they want to define the world, and once that’s done, change it. They say its because there is a story in them that begs telling. They say it’s because writing is their ministry or their passion or their calling.
And yet while those things may be true in some respect, the plain fact is that all of it is mostly bull. Because deep down in places we’d rather keep shadowed, we’re really doing it for the applause at the end.
Despite whatever sin we think this involves, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Writing is work. Hard, sweaty, painful work. It is what Hemmingway called “hard and clear about what hurts.” It is the tilling of the packed soil within us, the dredging up of our angers and fears not so we may hide them further, but so we may show them to the world.
The applause we seek isn’t for that; we do not want to be congratulated for our valor. No, it’s for something more fundamental. We want claps so that we may know we’ve been heard, that by exposing our pain we have built a bridge that spans Me and You and creates an Us.
To a writer, the only thing that is worse than derision is silence.
I write this post with my daughter on the other side of the couch. She just asked me for a synonym for the word “courageous”. I stopped pecking at this keyboard long enough to glance over and see another notebook on her lap. She’s begun another story.
I tell her to use “intrepid,” but inside I’m thinking a better word would be her.
I found the gift when I walked upstairs over the weekend to begin this piece. Sitting here on my desk waiting for me, propped up against my notebook and held in place by my pen.
I flipped on the desk lamp and settled into my chair, then unfolded the piece of paper. The neat, balloon-like words of half script and half cursive seemed to reach out and peck me on the cheek:
Don’t work yourself too hard tonight! I found this book in the attic. I wondered if you ever saw it or read it. I’m pretty sure you need it since you are almost officially an author now. Just as a heads up it looks like a really old book. Some of the pages fell out. I stuffed them back in there. It’s the Second Edition. I wonder if you have the First Edition. Anyway you might need it sometime. Remember don’t stay up too late and again don’t work yourself too hard. I Love You!!!
The word “love” had been written again at the bottom of the page in a ten-year-old’s attempt at Elizabethan flourish. My daughter had signed her name below that and added a pencil-drawn heart beside it.
Beneath the letter was the treasure she had rooted out from the attic—an ancient grammar book, the origins of which escaped me. I noticed the font of the cover mimicked the “love” she used for her complimentary close. I ran a finger over the title—The Confident Writer.
That my daughter managed not only to find the book but write this letter, place it here for me to find, and then sneak back downstairs without spoiling the surprise is a testament to her resourcefulness. Also to her understanding of her father. I sat the paper aside and turned my attention to the book. After all, she was right. I may indeed need it.
It was all there in those 525 pages—nouns and verbs and sentence structure. Punctuation and prepositions. Referential words and phrases. Everything anyone would ever need in order to become an “official author.”
Most everything, anyway. Because while all the nuts and bolts of proper writing were there in abundance, the most important things were not.
It’s said that writers are a notoriously fragile lot, given to fits of everything from low self-esteem to a worry that borders on paranoia. I won’t say that’s all completely true, but it’s not completely false. There are a great many rewards that can come by living your life from the inside out and scribbling down what you find along the way. But there are drawbacks, too. Every profession has its hazards, myriad ways to be banged up and injured and sickened. The only difference between writers and most everyone else is that our welts and abrasions lie hidden beneath the skin. They’re visible, but only to us and only when viewed through the nearest mirror.
That is why we look for comfort wherever we can and lean upon our loved ones and those who work for our success. Small acts such as my daughter’s note beside me become life preservers of sorts, something to tether us to a safe harbor and keep us from drifting into murky waters. To accept them and then offer your own small acts in return is all the proof you need that putting pen to paper may at times be an exercise in isolation, but never in loneliness. That, I think, is how a confident writer it made.
And that is why I’m setting the book in front of me aside. It won’t go back into the attic, but neither will it stay on my desk. It will instead remain close at hand, ready to offer another nut or bolt to whatever story I build.
This letter, though.
That stays here. Right here next to me, where my eyes can wander to it. Where my lamp can cast its glow upon these balloon-like words and I can trace this pencil-drawn heart with a finger.
I’ll say I’m a writer because I can’t speak. At least not well and not in front of large groups of people I do not know. I’ve done so anyway, and many times. And truthfully, I do just fine as long as I don’t count the “aint’s” and dropped g’s that come out of my mouth.
The invitation to speak that I received last week wasn’t one I could pass up. It wasn’t a fancy conference, wasn’t in a fancy city. It didn’t pay well (actually, it didn’t pay at all). It was instead for career day at the local elementary school.
It isn’t often that I get to play author, much less play one for an entire day. Despite the props I brought along—two books, a typed manuscript, and one bulging notebook—I knew it would be a rough road to travel. After all, I was going up against firemen and police officers and radio personalities. A writer would have a tough time competing with that with a bunch of grownups, much less a hundred fourth graders.
But as it turned out I didn’t have much to worry about at all. Sure, they were fourth graders—that peculiar brand of kid to which both reading and writing are anathema. So I started with the fact that when I was their age, I hated reading and writing, too.
It was all downhill from there.
I’m smart enough to know that kids aren’t much interested in publishers or first drafts or the horror that is the adverb, smart enough to know that adults aren’t much interested in them either. But I’ve found over the years that everyone, regardless of age or interest, perks up whenever I mention a writer’s primary gift to the world.
Not wisdom. Not inspiration. Not tight plots or moving themes or even memorable characters. No, writers do what they do because of one reason and one reason only—
They get to create magic.
They didn’t believe me, of course. Not right away. One kid asked me to make his pencil disappear if I knew magic. Another wanted me to guess the number she was thinking. I told them I couldn’t and that it didn’t matter, because the magic writers do was better. It was the greatest magic of all.
It was the magic of writing words down on a page that make pictures in other people’s minds.
It was the magic of being able to create entire worlds from scratch and put anything I wanted to in them.
It was the magic of being able to touch another person’s heart, a person who might live far away, someone you’ve never spoken to and likely will never meet.
And best of all, I told them, is that everyone possesses a bit of that magic. Anyone could be a writer. Didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, didn’t matter what color you were, didn’t even matter if you went to college or not. That magic was still in us.
It takes time, of course. All magic does. But I told them that if they did three simple things, that magic would grow and eventually spill out.
You have to read, I said. Every day.
And you have to write. Every day.
And most important of all, you have to believe you’re special. Because there is only one you in this world, and the way you see life is different than the way anyone else who’s ever lived has seen it. That’s why your story is so important. So needed. After all, that’s what the magic is for.
Turns out that an informal poll conducted by the teachers placed me second of the day’s top speakers. The winner was the radio guy. I wasn’t surprised. I can’t compete with someone who’s met Taylor Swift and Trace Adkins. I wouldn’t even try.
But a teacher told me that the next day when it came time for her class to do their journal writing, there was much less grumbling than usual. They were ready. Eager. When she asked why, her kids told her they wanted to make some magic.
Theodor and Henrietta Geisel welcomed their son into the world on March 2, 1904 . They gave the boy his father’s name, though he wasn’t a junior—young Theodor’s middle name was Seuss.
Geisel went on to attend Dartmouth College and graduated in 1925. He was returning from a trip abroad in 1937 when the rhythm of the ship’s engines inspired what would become his first book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. That book was rejected nearly thirty times before it found a publisher, and Theodor Geisel became Dr. Seuss.
Few writers will ever achieve the enduring popularity of Dr. Seuss, fewer still will come to hold such a prominent place in the childhoods of so many people. I was raised on the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat. So were my kids. And to this day I’ll pull a worn copy of one of his books from my shelf and read it. Wisdom comes from many places, and it often pours forth from the minds of those who write for children.
In honor of Dr. Seuss’s 108th birthday, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from his books. They’ve inspired, they’ve healed, and they’ve gotten me through.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”
“It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.”
“Will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”
“Step with care and great tact. And remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.”
“It is better to know how to learn than to know.”
“Everything stinks till it’s finished.”
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
“Think and wonder, wonder and think.”
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
And one more, my all-time favorite: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss quote?
I’m guest posting over at Rachelle Gardner’s site today. You can get there from here by clicking here.
I recently spent a Friday afternoon with a group of high school English students. They were stuck, their teacher said. Could you help? Since the teacher happened to be a longtime friend and I didn’t have much else to do, I said yes. Absolutely.
But it was more than simply helping out a friend and having something to do. Much more. The problem her students were having was the problem isn’t the sole property of the formative years. I didn’t have anyone around back then to tell me how to fix it. It isn’t often that life affords you the chance to right some cosmic wrong. When it does, you can’t pass it up.
Their problem was a basic one, simple yet foundational.
They had nothing to write about.
To a person, they were stereotypical teenagers. Clumsy and loud, with a strange combination of fear and arrogance. The one thing that set them apart from the rest was a common love of writing, whether it was expressed or not. But a love of writing isn’t enough. You have to do something with it. You have to have material. And they had none. Zero. Nada.
Or so they thought.
I can’t say that I managed to convince all of them otherwise in the three or so hours I was there. But I did some, I think. And I did a few most assuredly. Considering the fact that it’s darn near impossible to get a teenager to change his or her mind about anything, I’d call that a victory.
But then I started thinking about the fact that thinking there isn’t anything interesting about your life isn’t just for teenagers. Not just for writers, either. We all fool ourselves into thinking there isn’t anything that separates us from everyone else. So I thought I’d give the same little pep talk to you today that I gave them a couple weeks ago. Just in case.
It’s amazing how the rules of good writing are also the rules of good living. The two go hand in hand, I think. Good writing is cutting out all the excess, whittling down what you want to say until what you need to say is left. Same with living. Whittle it down. Find the basics. Keep it simple. Makes for not just a better story, but a better life, too.
I wasn’t visiting that class to talk about the basics of a good story, though. I was there to talk about the basics of getting ideas. Not surprisingly, that just so happened to be my own rule number one to good writing. And good living.
Rule Number One:
You are extraordinary.
Don’t let anyone fool you with that. Some will try, of course. Some will try very hard. They’ll say you’re good or nice or very polite or even special, but not extraordinary. And maybe you’ll even tell yourself that. Don’t. That’s a lie, and maybe the biggest. Believe it, and nothing will really happen. Don’t believe it, and everything will.
It’s not just you that’s extraordinary, either. Your life is, too. What you’re feeling, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking. Your dreams and your fears, your hopes and worries. Extraordinary, and in a very special way. On the one hand, those things are unique to you. Your thoughts about them are your own, and how you approach each of them is determined by everything from your DNA to your experience and your beliefs.
But on the other hand, those dreams and fears and hopes and worries are for the most part shared by every other person who’s ever walked in this world. There is an invisible line that runs through the heart of every person, connecting you not only to your family and your friends, but to the stranger down the road. As different as we may appear to be on the outside, we’re all the same on the inside.
You are common, yes. But only in the way Da Vinci and Einstein and Twain were common. They were extraordinary in what they did with their commonness. You can be the same.
Think of this world as a house with many rooms. Some are big and wide and hold many people. Others are small and cramped and hold just a few. But all of those rooms are dark inside.
When you’re born, God gives you a light and places you in one of those rooms. It might be a big room with many people. Maybe it’s a smaller room with a few people.
It doesn’t matter what kind of room you’re in. Doesn’t matter who’s there and who isn’t.
All that matters is that you shine your light.
Mom saw an angel once. She was a little girl, ten or eleven, sleeping in bed one night. What woke her was the light from the hallway—a white ball that hung suspended in the air and danced into her room. You would think such a thing would be frightening, but she said there was nothing scary about it. In fact, she’ll tell you that in the fifty-some-odd years since, she never felt so peaceful. An angel, she’ll tell you. No doubt about it.
My uncle saw one, too. Same house, same time of night, different year. This time it wasn’t a white ball, it was a body and a face and a brilliance he said almost blinded him. Again, no fear. Just an awe that left him silenced and humble.
Take those stories as you will. Some of you read those words and nodded—no doubt about it, you said. Some of you likely rolled your eyes and chalked that up to the imagination of a child. Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t know if I believe those stories per se, but I do believe in the possibility.
There are other stories. My wife says her grandmother visited her one night. It was late, something woke her, and she saw an old woman smiling at her. She’d never met her grandmother—half a continent divided them—but my wife knew who was smiling at her.
Her grandmother had died earlier that night. My wife wasn’t told until the next day.
I will admit a kind of jealousy upon hearing such stories. There are some among us who have witnessed the thin veil hanging between this world and the next come undone—lifted up, for whatever reason, to allow a glimpse into the Mystery. Aside from a few instances, that thin veil has held in my own life. I can only dream and imagine and wait.
Angels have been with us since the beginning. Despite whatever differences the religions of this world have, they seem to be a common thread. This comforts me. What comforts me, too, is that we all have our own angel. Put two people in a room, and there are really four.
The Hebrew word is malach. It means messenger. To the ancient Hebrews, anything that brings a lesson, anything that helps in some way, could be considered an angel. This comforts me, too.
Angels point the way. They guide, they help, they tell us what God wants us to know. And if we were ever blessed with the opportunity, they would show us just how special and wonderful our lives truly were.
And that, in a nutshell, is what happens to Andy Sommerville.
Paper Angels, my second novel, will be out November 9. It is the story of one ordinary man with an extraordinary ability—Andy can see his angel, calls him The Old Man. But far from seeing The Old Man as a blessing, Andy has found him a curse. He believes his angel has kept him from a better, more fulfilling life than the one he has—a life that has come to be defined by a wooden box filled with twelve trinkets The Old Man has told him to keep over the years. “You’ll need them,” The Old Man says, “when the time comes.”
That time comes one dark night when Andy is involved in a brutal attack that leaves him badly burned and the boy he’s come to see as a son murdered. Stripped of all he held dear, The Old Man abandons Andy in his hospital bed. Now all Andy has left is his wooden box and a hospital counselor named Elizabeth, who will help him discover the shocking truth of his life.
I do hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of your own. If you’re interested, you can stop by Amazon HERE or ask for it at your local bookstore. Paper Angels is a love letter of sorts, written so that others may ponder the angels in Andy’s life and then ponder the angels that fill their own. Because I may have my doubts when someone shares a story of that veil between worlds coming undone, but I do not doubt it is possible. And I do not doubt that just as there is an angel looking over my shoulder as I scribble this post, there is also one looking over yours as you read it.
I spent much of last Friday at the hospital with my wife, who had been feeling particularly ucky of late. The doctors had (and as I write this have) no idea what’s wrong. Tests were in order. So off we went, her to be poked and prodded for two hours, and me to pass the time in the waiting room.
As I am not a fan of feeling ucky or being poked and prodded, hospitals rank just above funeral homes on my list of Places I Wish Not To Go. It isn’t the germs that bother me, not the echoes of coughs or the abundance of wheel chairs and gurneys. It’s the despair, I think. That thick dark cloud of inevitability that seems to hang over everyone and everything. Going to the hospital makes me confront the fragility of life. That’s something I’d rather not consider.
I brought enough work to keep my mind off things. I knew the waiting area had a television, but the possibility of watching Sportscenter all morning quickly evaporated when I was told the only channel offered was HGTV (according to the nice old lady with the clipboard, anything else may be construed as “controversial.”) I had a notebook—1,000 words a day every day is what I was taught, even when you’re sitting in a hospital—and my i-Pod—the new Trace Adkins album? Gold.
I was ready, oh yes I was. The only pondering of life and death that day would come from my characters rather than myself. Yes sir, I was going to mind my own business.
The only thing I didn’t take into account was that there would be other people in need of the sort of modern medical technology that only the local hospital’s radiology department could provide. Though the waiting room was relatively empty when we arrived, by the time my wife’s name was called, it was nearly full. And five minutes later, I had company.
The woman who sat down beside me with the crutches looked eighty but swore she wasn’t a day over fifty-seven. We exchanged hellos and I resumed my scribbling. She asked what I was doing. I said work (never say you’re a writer, I was taught that as well). She nodded and leafed through a ten-month-old magazine for exactly thirty seconds, at which time she sat it back down on the wooden table between us and asked what was wrong with me.
“I don’t think you’d have the time,” I joked.
She chuckled and touched my arm—eighty-year-old women who swear they’re not a day over fifty-seven love to touch arms—and said, “I mean what brings you here?”
“My wife’s getting a once-over,” I told her. “You?”
She tapped the crutches and then felt her leg. “Busted myself. Fell down the stairs. I blame the cat.”
“Cats are evil,” I said.
She gave me a knowing smile.
“Cats are not evil,” said the woman across from us. A sling was wrapped around her neck which made her left arm form an L. She looked as though she were leaning on an invisible fence post. “I have three, and they’re darlings.”
“Bet your cat did that to your arm,” I said.
“Nope. I fell out of a wheelbarrow.”
“Pardon?” the woman beside me said.
“Yep, wheelbarrow.” She looked down at her arm and up to us. The look on her face was a mix of embarrassment and pride. “My son said I was too chicken to let him push me down the hill in it. Guess I showed him, huh?”
“Guess so,” I said.
The man to her left had been listening this whole time under the guise of being immersed in his sports magazine. I doubt any of us thought he was actually reading it. Hard to do with a neck brace.
“I did that once,” he said. “Made it down our hill just fine. Shut that cocky son of mine’s mouth up, sure enough. I don’t take chances anymore, though.”
“What happened to you?” the old lady beside me asked.
“This?” He pointed to the brace, just in case she were asking of anything else. “I got up off the couch. Seriously. All I did. Felt something pull, just…pop goes the weasel.”
I never got any writing done. It was better to sit and talk, I think. Better to be reminded of the fragility of life, that strange thing that seems so hard but is instead so soft. I was reminded of just how clumsy we all are and how we can get hurt even when we take no chances.
Because our existence is but a thin strip of breath upon which we teeter and totter and, eventually, will tumble off.
I just typed the final period of the final draft of what will hopefully be my third book. Always an ambivalent experience. You’re glad the story is done, but at the same time it’s hard to let the story go. Even now, my thoughts are away from this sheet of paper and on my characters. I wonder what they’d do next and if they all managed to carry on. The answer to the former is that I have no idea. The answer to the second? Yes.
I figure that between drafts of books, journal entries, and blog posts, I’ve written about a million words in the last ten years. That’s a lot. And I have proof, too—the trunk beside my desk at home is full of notebooks and papers, as are the bottom two rows of my bookshelves. Not to mention files upon files on my computer. You would think that considering such bountiful evidence, I would know a thing or two about writing.
It’s a sickness to believe otherwise, at least in my case. Each time I feel as though I’m coming down with a case of I-could-do-a-whole-book-about-writing, I remedy myself by actually sitting down to write something. Always does the trick.
Because it’s difficult, the crafting of words. It’s painful and draining, and more than once I’ve asked myself why in the world I do it at all (answer: because it’s more painful and draining if I don’t).
This has been especially true with the book I just finished. Though aspects of it are similar to my first two, much of it isn’t. It was a leap of faith designed to prevent the one feeling I want to preserve every time I sit down to write.
Not hope or faith or love.
Yes. While I’m writing, I want to be afraid.
On the surface, that shouldn’t be a problem. Deep down, writers swim in fear. They’re terrified of rejection, anxious that their work will be perceived as infantile, troubled that there are thousands of other writers out there more talented and successful. We’re a tangled mass of neuroses and obsessions.
But those aren’t the sorts of fears I’m talking about. In fact, I’d say those fears should be battered into submission so the real fear—the necessary panic—can course through me unencumbered.
Whatever our words may be to readers, to ourselves they should resemble a sledgehammer taken to the barricade we construct to keep us a safe distance from the world. Each tap of the keys or stroke of the pen should in reality be a swing of the hammer. Each word should be a tiny chunk taken from our walls. Each paragraph a brick, each page a section, until finally we are left naked with nothing between us and our audience.
That’s the fear of which I speak.
That’s the only way writing works.
There are countless definitions of what good writing looks like. For me, only one counts—good writing doesn’t show how we’re all different, but how we’re all the same. And that’s impossible unless writers are willing to be vulnerable.
Vulnerable enough to commit to the page those hidden parts within themselves which they wouldn’t even whisper to their closest friends.